Pastoral Letter from the Moderator of the 2019 General Assembly, The Rev. Amanda Currie, B.A.Sc., M.Div.
September 30, 2019
Residential school Survivors and families, and all who walk a path of reconciliation,
This morning, the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation released the first list of the known names of children who died and went missing at residential schools during a ceremony at the Canadian Museum of History in Gatineau, Quebec.
It is difficult to express the depth of sorrow that losing a child causes a family. Even speaking of healing in this context is painful, for how can one heal from such a loss? For some Survivors, families and communities, the release of these names will be a step towards closure, yet some may also struggle with reopened wounds. Many still seek answers about what happened to their loved ones. There are more names yet to be found and much work lies ahead to gather the names and stories of these lost children, and to honour their lives. For all who mourn the children named, and those who have yet to be named, I share in your mourning. We carry the weight of knowing our church was involved in running these schools and taking these children. I pray for the Creator’s healing presence and comforting Spirit to be with all who mourn, and to guide our church in living out the Confession of the harm we caused by operating residential schools and our commitment to a journey of reconciliation.
Today is a day to bear pain in solidarity and to witness to the lives of the thousands of First Nations, Inuit and Métis children who never returned home from residential schools. As a denomination, we have committed to walk with Indigenous people towards healing and wholeness. Part of this journey to healing involves confronting the intergenerational cost of the residential school system on Indigenous communities. The release of the Missing Children Register is an invitation to remember and honour the children who attended the schools; those who survived, and those who did not. In this time of hearing difficult truth, I encourage all Presbyterians to pray together. Pray for the children, their families and their communities. With the knowledge that healing is still needed, I also encourage all of us to reflect on how we can contribute to furthering a path of healing and reconciliation.
May God help us all to walk gently and with compassion.
Prayer of Lament for Children Who Died or Never Returned Home from Indian Residential Schools
Creator God of love and justice, Comforter of those who mourn,
We turn to you acknowledging the actions of your church, our complicity in running residential schools and taking children from their families. We have asked forgiveness and committed to work for healing and reconciliation. But we recognize that for some, that change came too late.
We have just seen the first list of the names of students who died or never made it home from residential schools. We know the list is incomplete; that there will be more names and that some names may never be known. But you know, Loving and Healing God, their names and their stories.
For those children whose names we now know, those we do not yet know and for the intergenerational harm still present today that grew from their absence, we ask for forgiveness and pray for healing for those whose children, siblings, family and friends were taken from home but did not return.
For where there was joy, and we took it;
laughter and we stifled it
play and we turned it to tears
family and we broke it
We repent and renew our commitment to walk a new path. We honour the children lost and hold the memory of their lives in our hearts.
Comforting God, we pray for healing in the communities and families of all who experienced residential schools, and strength for all who pursue reconciliation.
— Justice Ministries, The Presbyterian Church in Canada
As of September 30, 2019, the names of 2,800 children known to have died or never returned home from residential schools have been made public by the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation. Access the list here.
According to the NCTR, the number of children identified by name, as well as unnamed in death records, is about 4,200. It is estimated that about 150,000 Indigenous children were removed from their homes and forced to attend residential schools in Canada. The first schools opened in the 1880s and the last residential school closed in 1996.